Four Birds A Boating

***Note from ENO: Welcome to the wonderful Four Birds A Boating! These tough gals will be participating in the New Ocean Wave race – a rowing race from Monterey Bay, CA to Honolulu, Hawaii – in honor of The Oceans Project Georgia – a charity aimed to provide free, high quality environmental education to any young person, anywhere in the world. We will be sponsoring them with Hammocks and ENO products to ensure they get a little bit of relaxation on their difficult, but worthwhile journey.***

Aim: free education to youth everywhere!

It feels like the first day of Spring, almost summer here in my hometown of Henley-On-Thames in Oxfordshire, UK.  For the past few weeks we’ve had a mix of rain and snow, but today we mowed the lawn and now there’s a touch of colour with the daffodils out, and even a bit of blue sky and sunshine. But that’s not why we are looking forward to the summer.  The real reason for counting down the days, is because in 492 or so days from now, we will at last come face to face with our ENO hammocks, and get to try them out properly for the first time ever.

You see, it all began 18 months ago in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.  We were four teachers from the UK (Henley, Yorkshire, Portsmouth) and South Africa who met whilst teaching, and somehow we came up with this crazy plan that we should spend 8 months rowing naked, over 8000 miles across the Pacific Ocean, in order to raise money for children’s education worldwide.  But the thing was, only one of us had ever rowed before, so first of all we would need access to a rowing machine and then we would need to learn how to row.

I’m now back in my hometown on Henley, Michelle is in Yorkshire learning to row at Bradford University, Kate is off on a ship somewhere with the Royal Navy, and Brigid is far from water in South Africa, learning to row on a Concept2 rowing machine and struggling on in the heat. Michelle is the only one actually out rowing on the water at the moment, because the recent flooding has meant that most rivers in the UK are just too full of rubbish and are flowing too fast for newbie rowers like us.  But it doesn’t mean we are just sitting at home drinking tea all day. Oh no it doesn’t! For me, I’m training for at least four hours per day (around full time work and row planning), thankfully supported by a local gym (Urban Fitness), a local studio (Purestretch) offering pilates, yoga, and tai chai, working with a personal trainer (the lovely Rachael) and sports masseur (Tonic Massage), as well as receiving coaching from none other than Leander Rowing Club’s first female Captain in over 180 years and Olympic Rower Debbie Flood. Training was quite a slog at first.  Having been in Georgia for almost three years, I’d done no exercise, and getting towards my 40s and with all my various injuries and things, training was always going to be a bit harder, especially as the oldest member of our team ‘Fourbirdsaboating‘ by over ten years. But I’m loving every minute of this wonderful journey so far, and its great to be building up the time rowing and seeing my muscles become more and more defined.  But best of all, I get to consume loads of calories (cakes and tea where possible), as we’ll be burning up around 8000 calories per day on the row.

We still have a long way to go just to reach the start line, but a brilliant incentive, is knowing that one of the California based teams ‘Such a Blast‘ (two guys called Cyril and Roman), have very kindly taken receipt of our ENO hammocks, and will bring them to the start of the very first ever ocean rowing race from Monterey Bay to Hawaii.  All being well, we’ll be just hanging around by the boat, waiting for the weather window and race organisers to tell us its time to leave, but when we’re not rushing around getting the boat ready, we’ll be lying back in those hammocks, reflecting on the journey that got us just to that start line.

And when the four girls are not using the hammocks, our two support crew Helen and Steven will be keeping them occupied, first in Monterey after they have waved us off at the start of the race, and then as they await our arrival some three months later in Honolulu, Hawaii. Now, the most important thing for our team, is that we’ll be visiting schools around Monterey Bay, and they’ll be able to follow us live from the boat as part of our exciting educational package.  Then, we’ll spend some time resting and recovering and travelling all over Hawaii, making 3D films for our students, scuba diving, visiting schools, and chilling out in our hammocks. When the weather window is right, we’ll leave the other race entrants behind to celebrate the end of their race, as we’ll continue on alone and unsupported for another few months, until we reach Cairns, Australia.  Steve and Helen will again use the hammocks whilst seeing us off, and then wait for us to arrive in Australia, before we join them for some well deserved down time, and some more school visits, scuba dives, and 3D film making.

Money will go towards free education equipment

Part of our journey is about raising funds for a charity called Thai Children’s Trust, and we are extremely lucky to be able to stop off in Thailand on the flight home, to visit some of the 4000 orphans across Thailand that we have raised money for.  Sadly, many of these children lost family in a tsunami, and we want to connect them with children in other countries, via our online classroom, so that we can teach them all different subjects, not just from the boat and islands we visit, but forever. And we hope to get some lovely pictures of us all in the hammocks with our new found friends, and to share our journey with you in any way we can.

The team hammocks!

For now, we have to continue working hard to raise the funds we need to build our boat  But we have grand plans for the future, including a goal to raise one million pounds through the row, so that the interest earned on that each year will fund all of our future work forever, and allow us to provide tablet computers, internet and free online education one school or children’s project at a time. No matter what country, ability, or background.

The 15th April 2013, marks the official launch of our fundraising campaign and Pacific Ocean row, and to celebrate the event, we’ll be hosting a special film screening and Q&A in Henley-On-Thames.  The film is a Discovery Channel Documentary called ‘Rowing the Pacific’. It was narrated by Olympic Rower James Cracknell, and follows the incredible journey of two men Chris Martin and Mick Dawson as they became the first men to row from Japan to San Francisco.  The film will be followed by a Q&A session with Chris and Mick, as well as the film’s Producer Liz Tucker. All being well, this will be the first film of many fundraising events for our own row, and ENOpians will be amongst the first to get all the hot gossip from Fourbirdsaboating HQ.

We’d like to give a massive thank you to ENO for the donation of our brilliant hammocks, and for the opportunity to share our journey with you on this wonderful blog.

(Thank you to Cyril for taking the photos of our hammocks too!). If you would like more information on the inaugural New Ocean Wave Pacific Ocean rowing race click here. To watch the ‘Rowing the Pacific’ trailer click here.

By Sarah Weldon, one 1/4th of Four Birds A Boating.

Half of Four Birds A Boating